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Originally published on October 5, 2016

This is part 13 of a multi-part Blog on Executive Leadership.

At the end of the day we are accountable to ourselves – our success is a result of what we do. — Catherine Pulsifer, Success

Everyone wants to be a leader—the pickup ball game, the lead role in a play, the office at work… But not everyone who aspires to leadership can become a great leader or even a senior leader. This is because making the jump from a managerial leadership role to a senior leadership role—or going from good to great—requires the acceptance of responsibility and practice of accountability that goes with it. In fact, without accountability, you cannot be an effective senior leader—and will never rise to the pedestal of great leadership. 

Accountability. It is a word with which we are familiar, but what does it really entail? The most foundational principle of accountability is simply that you accept responsibility for your outcomes—good or bad. You don’t place the blame on others. You don’t find ways to blame external factors. Why? Because there are always things you could have done—or can still accomplish—to influence the outcome…your outcome.

It is important to explore the philosophical difference between leaders, managers, and employees. At each step up the ladder, a different dynamic drives actions. This is illustrated below.

Philosophical levels of accountability & responsibility.

The bottom line: Organizations may not prosper and grow until leaders are willing to step up, take responsibility for leading, and assume accountability for both good and not-so-good outcomes. It is important for leaders to not only be accountable for what goes right, but also—and more importantly—for what goes wrong. This is not a bad thing—it is a learning process. It has been said that there is no such thing as failure—what is perceived as a failure by some is actually a learning experience that can make the team stronger and more successful in future endeavors.

Your middle managers and employees depend on you—for guidance, responsibility, and the integrity of accountability. These are all part of establishing and maintaining the essential trust relationship that binds successful organizations and effective teams together. Every member of the team is an asset—and is perceptive as well. How you act as a leader will define how managers and employees act as well…

As a leader, your accountability will be of importance to the people you lead. It is a significant measuring rod by which to quantify and qualify your performance. In order to optimize your leadership accountability, the following five guidelines provide points to ponder on how you appear as an accountable leader to those who you lead.

  1. By recognizing a mistake and authentically apologizing to those who were deceived in the process.

  2. By recognizing the consequences of a mistake.

  3. By concentrating the following efforts on actions to be taken rather than on finding excuses, apologizing or lingering on the initial emotions of deception.

  4. By presenting the actions that will be taken to fix a situation and to prevent it from being reproduced.

  5. By speaking of a problem in the first person rather than hiding behind the “we” of the organization or by putting the blame on others.

The ability of a leader to authentically acknowledge and assume their accountability in any situation inspires confidence and encourages the search for solutions.

The opposite of accountability is when a leader uses transference to deflect their responsibility onto others or blames the consequence on circumstances. This can weaken the confidence in the leader and create a lack of mobilization in the team or organization.


Next week will be part 14 of the series: Influencing Others




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